New blow for Paris shopkeepers as lockdown bites

Paris (AFP) –


As late-night shoppers have continued to throng Parisian stores selling takeaway alcohol and food amid a new national lockdown, the city's mayor announced Thursday that some will be forced to close at 10:00 pm to prevent coronavirus-spreading gatherings.

Restaurants and bars are already shuttered under stay-at-home orders that entered into force for a month last Friday, but takeaways are allowed and supermarkets, specialist food stores, liquor stores and night shops remain open, along with other businesses offering "essential" services.

"Faced with the worrying health situation, to avoid gatherings, I have agreed to a request from the police department to close some places that sell takeaway food and alcohol from 10:00 pm," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.

She told BFM television that several gatherings at such establishments have been reported even as France, and Paris in particular, is dealing with a fast-growing second wave of coronavirus cases.

On Wednesday, the public health agency said there had been more than 40,500 new infections in 24 hours and 385 deaths in hospital -- a figure that excludes deaths at care homes, which are reported sporadically.

The overall French death toll now stands at 38,674, with 4,089 people in intensive care, out of 6,400 beds available nationwide.

About a quarter of intensive care cases are in the greater Paris region.

The new lockdown allows people to leave home only to go to the office, if working-from-home is not possible; to go to the doctor; exercise outdoors; drop children off at school; or do essential shopping.

A self-signed permission slip is needed for each excursion, or an electronic version on the government's Tous AntiCovid contact tracing app.

Hidalgo's announcement came after confusion earlier in the week when government spokesman Gabriel Attal announced a new curfew for Paris, on top of the lockdown, which was quickly denied by the prime minister's office.

The mayor said the new measure did not amount to a curfew, since it did not affect all types of stores.

Health Minister Olivier Veran is due to give an update on the crisis later Thursday, and media reports speculate he will unveil even tougher restrictions as hospitals keep filling up.

Hidalgo described a "very worrying situation" in the capital and its suburbs, and said she had proposed that extra space be made available for school classes to ensure adequate social distancing for pupils and staff.

Libraries, theatres and gymnasiums emptied by the new lockdown could be put to use, she said.